We are determined to set up and follow organic practices as far as possible and practicable on our little piece of paradise in Alekovo. Nick has discovered “permaculture” – a school of thought for living (not just growing) in a way that will lead towards sustainability both as a family unit and community (and ultimately much much more if it spread much bigger than that). But as a concept it gets lots of jibes and taunts and mickey taking from main stream farmers, producers, growers and gardeners who are focused on traditional methods, yeild per pound or acre, profits, fixed schedules for harvesting or culling etc. – out there with the “tree huggers” and “green terrorists”. Permaculture is MUCH bigger than that and has much wider ramifications especially as more and more small scale smallholders, home gardeners and small farmers and producers embrace it.
Examples of permaculture design, cultivation and methods are definately going to appear more regularly in this blog once we are on the ground in BG and planting and raising our critters. We have lots of ideas based on the experience of others but we will need to adapt these to our own unique circumstances (land, weather, resources, soil, availability, etc. etc.) and then adjust them based on results – it’s scarey exciting!
This is not the place to describe in detail all the principles and practices of permaculture design or organic and eco-friendly farming methods. First we are no experts – at the moment just theoretcial students of a sort. Second there is a huge knowledge base on these subjects on the internet, so go “google” and explore the basic principles. Combine that with the fact that God made us stewards of His Creation, so we have an obligation and a duty to (a) use/manage His resources (animal, mineral, vegetable and man made) wisely, effectively, healthily, ethically and (b) love our neighbours as ourselves – then there is a pretty clear model, right?
Why Raised Beds
We are getting older – and arthritis and age and unexpected stuff is all there in the wings waiting to kick in. And we are lazy! Spending hours with a bending back or kneeling down is not attractive at all. Having garden beds at 90-100cm above ground, in a contained area that you can reach from either side is a great idea. You can take a chair or stool outside to sit and plant/weed/potter, or even standing the strain on the old back and knees is greatly reduced. But also you can control the micro-environment much more easily too – that is a permaculture design feature.
We also want to make it easier for ourselves to use the resources and materials from the garden to build these beds. We want to build these beds during our next long visit to BG (Spring 2014) and leave them to compost/ferment for between 9 and 12 months before we plant in them.
The Permaculture Version
Given all of the above, one of the permaculture versions of raised beds (there are many, to fit many different situations – and that is the beauty and one of the principles of permaculture, that you adapt the application based on resources and circumstances in your local environment) is to design and build them using the self-composting and self-heating principles of HugelKultur beds. Search it for yourself on google, but basically you build your raised bed on a base of wood which is the fuel for decomposition (composting), the medium for retaining moisture and the environment for bacteria, microorganisms and fungus that will convert the wood, humus and other green stuff in the raised bed into a high organic value plant medium that will give you wonderful product.
We are also going to prepare the beds for our vines (you have to have wine, right?) using the same permaculture principles. For the vines we will dig a 50-60cm trench and stack up 10-20cm wood/logs, then twigs, then leaves/cuttings, raw manure, soil and compost – into which we will plant our vines. We will then plant come companion species to provide ground cover that will both suppress the weeds and detger some insect and bugs. We will post more details about the vine beds when we create them.